The Oakland Christmas Bird Count, Sunday, December 17, 2017

David Quady and Nancy Boas

East Bay Birders and others:

Sunny skies and diminishing winds prevailed during Oakland’s 77th annual CBC yesterday. Our preliminary total of 175 species, announced at last evening’s compilation dinner, is about four below our recent average, but several count areas had not yet reported.

Among the 163 species recorded at least eight of the preceding ten years, on count day we missed only Bonaparte’s Gull, Heermann’s Gull, and Loggerhead Shrike. I’d appreciate reports of any of these species being present inside the count circle from Thursday, December 15 through Wednesday, December 21, especially on count day. Numbers of Bonaparte’s Gulls on count day have bounced around over the last ten years, while Heermann’s Gull numbers have not exceeded ten birds since 2001, although the species was missed on only two counts since then.

Loggerhead Shrike is a different story. It’s been characterized as a 'common species in steep decline,' and is a California State Species of Special Concern. This year the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species considered it ‘Near-Threatened,’ two steps away from Endangered status. Only once since 2007 have we recorded more than two individuals, usually near the Oakland Airport; this is the first year it’s been missed entirely. We hope the miss proves to be an anomaly.

Remarkably, three additions to the count’s all-time species list were reported last evening: Pomarine Jaeger and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, both seen from our North Boat, off the end of the Berkeley Pier; and two Rhinoceros Auklets, seen off Ballena Bay in Alameda. The well-photographed storm-petrel was chosen as the count’s best bird. Today we learned of a fourth addition to the all-time list: a Lapland Longspur, photographed at Cesar Chavez Park.

Other nice finds included a Ross’s Goose at Damon Slough, near San Leandro Bay; Snow Geese at two spots on the coastline north of the Bay Bridge and at Lafayette Reservoir; a Common Gallinule on a pond along Wilder Road; nice numbers of Surfbirds in the Emeryville area, with another individual at Pt. Isabel; a Lesser Yellowlegs and a Barn Swallow at San Leandro Bay; a Common Murre off the end of the Berkeley Pier; a half-dozen Tree Swallows over Lafayette Reservoir; a House Wren at the Tilden Park golf course; and single Nashville and Black-throated Gray warblers on Bay Farm Island. All these reports of rare birds are subject to confirmation.

The count’s first bird was a Northern Saw-Whet Owl spontaneously tooting at 2:30 am in Redwood Regional Park. Owling continued there and at several other locations under excellent owling conditions, with Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl and Western Screech-Owl also detected before dawn. Burrowing Owls were found after dawn.

We are very proud that the Oakland CBC has attracted more field observers than any other Christmas Bird Count during each of the past three CBC seasons. We won’t know until late 2018 how this year’s count stacked up, but it’s not too soon for Bob Lewis, my co-compiler, and me to invite you to join Oakland’s 78th annual CBC, on December 16, 2018.

Dave Quady
Berkeley, California

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